Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sugar and Yeast

All across Tuscany, different crops paint the countryside hues of green and brown. One of the most prolific crops is the grape, which are typically harvested for wine making rather than as produce.  Today in Montepulciano, I visited the … winery. As I ventured down into the cellar of the winery, large barrels of oak dwarfed me. The tour guide explained to us oaking the wine while it’s aging adds all kinds of flavors to the wine after the fermentation process has taken place. Fermentation needs only two things, sugar and yeast. A ripe organic grape is filled with sugar, and wild yeast lives on its skin. In order to start the fermentation process, all one has to do is break the skin and expose the sugar to the yeast. However, in conventional grape growing and harvesting, the yeast is absent, so the yeast is introduced by the producer. Natural wines are made with wild yeast indigenous to the grape’s region, but most commercial wines are the same handful of yeast strains. This takes from the flavor and the individuality of the wine. The amount of sugar in the grapes dictates the level of alcohol in the wine. An organic wine is created using only its own sugars, but the commercial produces use a process called Chaptalization, in which they add sugar to the juice during fermentation in order to boost the level of alcohol. Whether it’s a fine complex wine or a table wine, they both come about through the process of fermentation.


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